Canadian Piano History -
Heintzman & Company
This information is provided for general interest. If you have specific questions about a piano please contact a qualified tuner/technician in your local area.
Heintzman has been referred to as the Steinway of Canadian pianos because they were widely considered to be the best pianos ever made in Canada. In my years as a piano technician I have found that the older Heintzman pianos have stood up better than any other Canadian make. Even the century old instruments that I am called to service are still quite solid.
The company was founded in the city of Toronto in 1866 by Theodore August Heintzman. He had originally emigrated to New York from Berlin in 1850. He worked in the piano industry in New York and later Buffalo before coming to Toronto in 1860.
The Heintzman company built a reputation for quality right from the start. By the turn of the century they were the undisputed leader of the Canadian industry. They became the instrument of choice for musicians, music teachers and concert halls.
They produced high quality grand and upright pianos through the early decades of the twentieth century. Unfortunately, the market for large uprights declined through the 1930ís. Heintzman followed the trend toward smaller cheaper uprights and although they produced better than average uprights, they couldnít match the sound and quality of the earlier full sized upright pianos that they had once produced. Their grand pianos on the other hand, maintained a high level of quality into the 1960ís and 70ís.
By the 1970ís Canadian piano manufacturers were facing strong competition from Japanese companies like Yamaha and Kawai. By this time Heintzmanís quality was in decline and they eventually lost their place in the Canadian market place as the musician's piano of choice. The struggling company was turned over to the Canadian furniture manufacturer, Sklar Peppler. Not surprisingly, the pianos produced in this period were fine pieces of furniture. Unfortunately they were disappointing as musical instruments.
Sklar Peppler discontinued production of pianos in the early 80ís.
Heintzman has reappeared as a brand of new pianos in the last few years. It is being produced by a joint Canadian and Chinese venture which has set up production in Bejing China. The new company has acquired the rights to the Heintzman brand as well as their scaling and designs.
Points of interestÖ..
There is a lot of confusion in the public over the various products that were offered for sale through the Heintzman dealer network. There are many pianos that have a small decal on the right hand side of the fallboard, just above the keys, that says "From Heintzman & Company"". Many people assume that this means that the piano they are looking at is a Heintzman piano. Actually, the decal indicates that the piano was sold through their dealer network and that this piano was an alternate less expensive brand that their dealers could offer to the public.
To confuse things further, there was a second completely independent piano company called Gerhard Heintzman that manufactured pianos in Toronto up until 1926. This company was founded by Gerhard Heintzman who was the nephew of Theodore Heintzman.
Gerhard Heintzman produced a smaller number of reasonably good quality instruments but they were not of the same high quality as Heintzman & Company. Heintzman & Company took over and operated theirproduction for several years after Gerhard died in 1926.
The brands that were actually produced and sold by Heintzman at one time or another were Heintzman & Company, Gerhard Heintzman and Nordheimer. Brands that were sold with the "From Heintzman & Company" decal were Gerhard, Weber, Stevenson.
Unique Design Features
The most distinctive design feature of their piano was the unique iron plate. The plate was designed so that the strings went through tiny holes in a raised "agraffe bar". This assured perfect spacing of the strings and was partly responsible for the distinctive Heintzman sound.
Another innovation was an upright piano with a full sostenueto pedal. This is a feature that is normally only found in grand pianos.
Heintzman also created a transposing piano. This design allowed the piano player to shift the keys up or down half an octave so any piece could be played in any key. Irving Berlin wrote all of his songs on a transposing piano. This famous song writer could only play in one key!